Free Lightroom Presets Pack

Free Lightroom Presets

Go Media is so excited to release its first pack of Free Lightroom Presets! This pack is filled with 10 Lightroom Preset Essentials, including the fundamental resources you will need to get started processing your images with efficiency. Simply open Lightroom, import your photos or design work, head to the develop tab, and click the ‘+’ sign to import your new presets. Click on the presets until you find the look you’re after. To get full instruction on how to use our presets, definitely check out the notes in our download. These presets are for your personal use and are not for resale.

Here’s what’s included in the pack of free Lightroom Presets:

  • 10 Lightroom Presets created by your friends here at Go Media

Download these presets and How-To PDF now:

Freebie – Lightroom Presets from Go Media

Here are some previews of what the Lightroom presets will allow you to do:


Using Crumpled Paper Textures to Pimp out your Hang in There Cat Poster (Freebie Included!)

Tutorial: How to Create a Halloween Icon Pack Using Adobe Illustrator (Resources Included)

How to Create an Icon Pack using Adobe Illustrator

Since Halloween is just around the corner, we thought we should give you an early treat this year, in the form of a little icon tutorial. The idea was to show you guys how to create a cute set of three icons from scratch, using some of Illustrator’s basic tools such as the Shapes Tool, combined with the power of the Pen Tool and Pathfinder panel.

In terms of difficulty this course is aimed at those who have a basic knowledge of how Illustrator works, but that doesn’t mean beginners can’t give it a go, since every step is presented as explicitly as possible.

So, assuming you have Illustrator up and running, let’s jump in and start creating!

Download the: How to Create a Halloween Icon Pack Resources (AI + EPS Files)

1. Setting Up Our Document

The first thing you should always do, no matter the project, is make sure that you start off on the right foot by setting up a proper document.
So, go to File > New (or use the Control-N shortcut), and let’s go through some of the settings that need adjusting:

  • Number of Artboards: 1 – since we will be creating a small pack, one Artboard will suffice
  • Width: 800 px – which is the overall width of our Artboard
  • Height: 600 px – which is the overall height of our Artboard
  • Units: Pixels – this setting is really important since we will be creating for the digital medium, so screens and other display devices, which are pixel based.

And from the Advanced tab (which can be made visible by clicking on the little right facing arrow):

  • Color Mode: RGB – which is the color mode for the digital medium
  • Raster Effects: Screen (72 ppi) – this option controls the way drop shadows, textures and other effects are displayed on different media. If you’re creating for the screen 72 ppi will suffice, but if you’re designing with the intent of printing the final artwork on paper, then you should go with one of the higher values
  • Align New Objects to Pixel Grid: checked – as we want everything to correctly snap to the Pixel Grid

how to create an icon pack using adobe illustrator

2. Setting Up Our Layers

Once we’ve properly set up the document, we should take our time and think about the project itself in terms of layers.
Usually when I create detailed artwork, I find it useful to separate the different sections from one another using layers. This way I can easily work on a specific part of the design, without worrying that I’ll accidentally misarrange or affect my other shapes.
Since in our case the project is composed out of 3 assets (icons), it would be a good idea to create a layer for each one, so that we can better manage and edit them along the way.
So, assuming you know how the Layers panel works, let’s create 4 layers and name them so that they’ll be easier to identify:

1. grids – which will house the simple custom grids, that we will be using in order to create a cohesive pack
2. pumpkin
3. gravestone
4. eyeball

how to create an icon pack using adobe illustrator

3. Setting Up a Custom Grid

For those new to the Grid, well you shouldn’t worry since it’s not that hard to master. At its core, the Grid is a system of vertical and horizontal lines that allow you to compose and position you artwork with a high level of precision. It is usually used in UI design, where the process of creating a balanced composition requires the designer to put a lot of consideration into the relation established between the different visual components.

But as with most of Illustrator’s tools, this too gives you the ability to do so much more with, one particular one being that of creating pixel crisp artwork.

Since I’m a strong believer in creating with Pixel Perfection, I always set up my Grid to the lowest values since this will assure me that my shapes are as crisp as possible.
Illustrator itself comes preconfigured with a default set of values, which we will have to adjust in order to be on the same track, by going to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid.

Here, a new popup window should appear giving us the option to adjust the following settings to the values indicated below:

  • Gridline every: 1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1 px

Once you’ve entered the indicated values, you need to make sure that the Grid snapping is actually active by going to the View menu and clicking on the Snap to Grid option.
At this point, we’re pretty much done with the adjustment process, which means we can now move on to building the custom icon grids.

how to create an icon pack using adobe illustrator

4. Defining Our Icon Grid System

If you’ve ever created icons before, then you should know that the first step one needs to take when creating a new icon pack, is figuring out the size of the assets. There are a dozen of available options depending on where the icons themselves will be used, options that range from just 16 x 16 px all away to 256 x 256 px and even beyond that.
Now, for our current project, I’ve decided to go with something relatively large, more exactly 96 x 96 px, which means that our icons will be big enough so that we can put a considerable amount of details inside of them.

Once you’ve decided on your size, which we did, you will have to create a custom icon grid, which will allow you to build within that size boundary, which in the end will give you the ability to create an all-around cohesive icon set.
The grid itself is usually a square, since this shape allows you to push your pixels all the way to the limits of the confined space.
Yes you could add a bunch of horizontal, vertical and diagonal guides, for a deeper level of consistency, but in our case, a simple square will do the trick.

Step 1

So assuming you’re on the “grids” layer, lock all the other ones and create a 96 x 96 px square using the Rectangle Tool (M). Position the shape to the center of your Artboard by selecting it and then using the Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options found under the Align panel, making sure that the alignment is done to the Artboard and not to a Key Object or Selection.
Once you have the guide in place, change its color to a light grey (#e6e6e6) so that it will be easily visible without drawing too much attention.

Quick tip: in case your Align panel isn’t showing the Distribute Spacing and Align to options, that’s because you didn’t told Illustrator to do that. To change this, simply click on the right corner down facing arrow and then enable the Show options feature and you should be good to go.

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Step 2

Now, since I usually like to give my icons some inner padding, I tend to add a relatively smaller square to the one I already have.

If you’re wondering why, well let’s just say I like to fool proof my designs so that when exported, I can be sure that none of the sides of the icons gets accidentally chopped off. This would result in a flawed file.

So, using the Rectangle Tool (M), let’s create a smaller 92 x 92 px one, which we will position over the one we already had, giving it a slightly lighter shade (#f2f2f2).

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Step 3

Since we will need a pair of grids for each of our icons, we will have to group the first one that we’ve just created using the Control-G shortcut, and then create two copies which we will distance at 60 px from the original using the Horizontal Distribute Spacing option.

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At this point we’re done setting up the icon grids which means we can move on to creating our first icon, the creepy little pumpkin head.

5. Creating the Pumpkin Head Icon

Assuming you’ve locked the “grids” layer, and moved up onto the “pumpkin” one, we can start working on our first icon from the set.
Since all of our icons will have a fill/inner section and an outline, we will follow a pretty straightforward process of creating the inner section first and then applying a 4 px outline to it using the Offset Path effect.

Step 1

That being said, let’s grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create an 84 x 70 px shape with a 35 px Corner Radius which we will color using a dark orange (#bf7355) and then position over the first set of grids, so that we have an even gap of 4 px between it’s left, right and bottom sides and the larger grid itself.

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Quick tip: I recommend you turn on the Pixel Preview mode by going over to View > Pixel Preview, since most of the steps from this tutorial will rely on using this mode. I will also be giving you some pretty precise details when it comes to positioning the composing shapes.

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Step 2
Once we have our inner section of the pumpkin, we can give it an outline by selecting it, and then going to Object > Path > Offset Path and giving it an Offset of 4 px.

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This will create a larger shape just under the selected one, which we will have to color using a dark color (#392a16).

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Step 3

As soon as we have our outline, we can add the all-around inner ring highlight by first creating a duplicate of the orange fill (Control-C > Control-F) and then adding a smaller 80 x 66 px rounded rectangle with a Corner Radius of 33 px to the center of the fill shape.

This smaller shape will help us create a cutout, which we will do by selecting both it and the shape underneath, and then using Pathfinder’s Minus Front option.

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Step 4
Since the resulting shape isn’t quite there, we will have to change its color to white (#FFFFFF) and then set its Blending Mode to Overlay while lowering its Opacity level to 20%.

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Step 5
Add a little texture to the surface of the pumpkin, by drawing a bunch of 4 x 4 px rectangles which we will color using a darker shade of orange (#9e5943). Then make sure to have them positioned underneath the highlight that we’ve just created, by sending the highlight to the front using the Arrange > Bring to Front option.

Don’t forget to select all the composing elements of the texture, and group them together using the Control-G shortcut, since you wouldn’t want the elements getting misplaced by accident.

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Step 6
Next, we will start working on the vertical delimiting lines, which will give the pumpkin its nice curved look. To do this, we will first create a 44 x 70 px ellipse to which we will apply an Offset Path effect of 4 px.

Now, with both shapes selected, use Pathfinder’s Minus Front option to create a cutout from the larger ellipse, which will result in ring like shape that we will adjust by cutting it in half by removing its right section, and then changing its color to #392a16.

Position the resulting shape towards the left side of the pumpkin fill section, leaving a gap of 8 px between it and the larger outline.

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Step 7
Create a copy of the curved line and position it towards the right side of the pumpkin, making sure to reflect it vertically (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical).

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Step 8
Add a secondary pair of vertical rings by creating a slightly narrower 28 x 70 px ellipse, to which we will apply Offset of just 2 px. Repeat the same process of removing the inner shape from the created offset, and then cutting the resulting ring in half, making sure to position a copy on both sides of the pumpkin at about 10 px from the thicker rings.

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Step 9
Next, let’s add a couple of highlights and shadows to the rings, in order to give it more depth.

First let’s add the highlights by creating a copy after the rings and moving them slightly towards the inside of the pumpkin. Make sure to change their color to white (#FFFFFF) and set their Blending Mode to Overlay lowering the Opacity to just 20%.

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Step 10
Add the shadow by repeating the same process – only this time, position the shapes towards the outside of the pumpkin, setting their color to black (#000000) while changing their Blending Mode to Darken and lowering their Opacity to 30%.

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Step 11
As you can see, the highlights and shadows go over the actual outlines and highlight of our pumpkin which is something that we don’t want them to do. To fix this, we will have to create and apply a clipping mask in order to hide the parts of the details that we don’t want overlapping.
First, we will have to create the mask itself by creating a copy of the ring outline, and then separating its inner path from the outer one by right clicking > Release Compound Path. Once the path is released, we will have to select and delete the larger shape since we will be using the smaller one.

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Step 12
With the resulting shape from step 11 and both the highlights and shadows selected, right click > Make Clipping Mask.

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Step 13
Since some parts of the details still go over the outlines, we will have to select all the vertical rings and bring them to the front (right click > Arrange > Bring to Front).

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Step 14
Before we start adding the face features, let’s add one more vertical ring highlight towards the right side of the pumpkin, positioning it a little towards the middle.

Follow the same process as before, only make sure that you’re creating the shape inside the actual clipping mask by double clicking on one of the composing elements, or by right clicking > Isolate Selected Clipping Mask.

Once you’re done simply exit the Isolation mode by pressing Esc.

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Step 15
Up until this point we’ve followed a pretty strict do-this-then-that workflow, so I thought it’s time I gave you a little creative freedom and let you “carve” your pumpkin by your own, so that in the end you will have something special to show off with.

The only thing that you will have to keep in mind is that no matter the expression, you will have to keep the detailing process consistent by adding a 4 px outline to each of the created shapes. Also, for the fill colors you could use lighter or darker shades of orange, I for example, have gone with something darker (#634133) but you don’t necessary have to use the same tint if you don’t feel like it.

That being said, take your time and once you’re done move on to the next step.

Quick tip: there might be situations where the Offset Path trick will produce irregular outlines, so for those cases try and use a 4 px stroke instead.

graphic 23

Step 16
Assuming you’re carved an awesome scary look, let’s start adding the finishing touches, by working on the pumpkin’s top side that houses the vine.

First, grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 20 x 6 px shape, which we will color using a dirty light green (#87826f) and then position towards the top section of our pumpkin, making sure to position it underneath.

Oh, and as always don’t forget to give it that 4 px outline!

graphic 24

Step 17
Add a highlight to the vine’s base by creating a duplicate of the green shape, and then cutting out a smaller 18 x 4 px ellipse out of it. Color the resulting shape using white (#FFFFFF) and then change its Blending Mode to Overlay while lowering the Opacity level to 40%.

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Step 18
Finish off the vine by adding a 4 x 4 px square towards its top, which will act as the tip. Then change its color to a darker green (#757061) and give it an outline, only this time make sure to set the Joins option to Round.

Finally add a couple of highlights to the top and right side and a vertical divider towards the center, making sure to send all the tip’s elements to the back (right click > Arrange > Send to Back). You should also group the elements together (Control-G) so that things won’t end up being misplaced.

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Step 19
Add some “hair” to our little old pumpkin, by drawing a couple of curved paths using the Pen Tool (P), keeping the stroke Weight set to 1 px and the Cap to Round.

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Step 20
Finish off the icon by adding three diamond like highlights towards its middle right section, which will have their Blending Modes set to Overlay and their Opacity levels to 60%.

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6. Creating the Gravestone Icon

As soon as you’re done creating the pumpkin icon, you can lock its layer, and move on to the “gravestone” one and start working on it.

Step 1
Let’s start with the base of the grave by creating a 66 x 12 px rounded rectangle with a 4 px Corner Radius, which we will color using #a09793, and then position towards the middle of the smaller inner grid so that it touches its bottom side.

graphic 29

Step 2
Next, we have to make some adjustments to the shape by selecting its bottom-center anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then deleting them by pressing Delete.

As soon as you get rid of the anchors, use the Control-J keyboard shortcut in order to close the path.

Once you’ve adjusted the shape, give it a 4 px outline using the Offset Path (right click > Object > Path > Object Path) which you will color using the same color that we’ve applied to all our outlines (#392a16).

graphic 30

Step 3
Since I feel that the bottom corners of the outline are a bit too hard, I thought we should adjust them by selecting their anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and giving them a 2 px Corner Radius.

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Step 4
Using a similar process to the pumpkin icon, start adding a couple of highlights and a shadow to give the shape some depth.

graphic 32

Step 5
Once you’ve added the highlights and shadows, add a 66 x 1 px rectangle just above the shadow coloring it using the same color as the rest of the outlines (#392a16).

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Step 6
Add a bunch of cracks to the piece using the Pen Tool (P) and give them some highlights where you feel it’s necessary. Then select all the shapes and group them together using the Control-J keyboard shortcut.

graphic 34

Step 7
Let’s move on to the upper section of the icon, and start working on the stone itself by creating a 52 x 98 px rounded rectangle with a Corner Radius of 26 px. Color the shape using #66605e, and then adjust it by removing its bottom center anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and finally positioning it above the bottom section making sure to vertical align the two.

graphic 35

Step 8
Give the stone an outline, and then add a highlight and a 4 px tall shadow where its bottom sections meets the base of the gravestone.

Quick tip: Where the workflow is similar to the previous steps I won’t be repeating the entire process since it will be weird, but I will give you indications where things need to be done a little bit different. In the present case since we already went over the process of creating the highlights and shadows, I trust that you should be able to apply what you’ve learned in the previous steps.

graphic 38

Step 9
Now, let’s give the stone a texture similar to the one used for the pumpkin by creating a couple of 4 x 4 px squares, which we will color using #514a48. It would be a good idea to group the texture’s elements since you’ll want to be able to keep them in place.

graphic 39

Step 10
Once we’ve added the texture, we can continue the detailing process by adding a couple of cracks and some highlights underneath each of them using the Pen Tool (M).

graphic 40

Step 11
Add two vertical highlights, by drawing a wider 2 x 72 px rectangle and a narrower 1 x 72 px one to its right side at a distance of 1 px. Color the shapes using white (#FFFFFF) and then set their Blending Modes to Overlay as we did with the previous ones, while lowering their Opacity levels to 20%.

Position the highlights to the right side of the gravestone so that their bottom sides touch the stone’s shadow.

graphic 41

Step 12
Now as you’ve probably already noticed, the top side of the highlights overlaps the highlight of the stone itself, which we will need to correct by adding a clipping mask.
To do that, simply create a copy of the stone’s highlight, and then using the Direct Selection Tool (A) remove its outer anchor points, and then close the resulting path by pressing Control-J.
Then simply select the new shape and the two vertical highlights and right click > Make Clipping Mask.

Quick tip: in case you’re wondering why I prefer using clipping masks instead of Pathfinder, well the answer is really simple, while Pathfinder could achieve the same result, it won’t allow me to adjust my shapes later on if I find that I need too, which for me is a deal breaker.

graphic 42

Step 13
We’re almost there, but something seems like missing? Oh, right, the cross.

Let’s grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 16 x 6 px shape which will act as the horizontal line and another 6 x 22 px one, which will act as the vertical one.

Position the horizontal line towards the top section of the secondary line so that you have a gap of 6 px between the two. Then, color the shapes using #392a16, group them (Control-G) and then position them towards the top side of the stone, aligning the cross to the middle.

graphic 43

Step 14
Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 20 x 8 px shape, and then color it using a dark grey (# a09793). Since this will act as the name plate, we will have to stylize its corners by creating four 4 x 4 px circles which we will use in combination with Pathfinder’s Minus Front option to create those nice looking inner cutouts.

Now, since the Offset Path effect won’t be able to create an accurate outline, we will have to create it manually by drawing a 28 x 16 px rectangle which will follow the same stylizing process as before, only this time we will use four 8 x 8 px circles.

Once you have the outline shape, simply color it using #392a16, and then make sure to position it underneath the plate itself.

graphic 44

Step 15
Add some highlights to the plate and then using the Rectangle Tool (M) draw two horizontal lines, one thinner and one thicker which will represent the name.

Finally add two 2 x 2 px circles to each side of the plate, which will act as a pair of little screws holding the plate, and a shadow underneath its outline to give it more depth.

graphic 45

Step 16
Add the three little diamond shaped highlights towards the top right corner, by creating a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the ones from the pumpkin icon.

graphic 46

Step 17
Since at this point we’re pretty much done with the gravestone itself, it’s time to start working on the little skull.

First, create a 14 x 14 px circle and color it using a light grey (#d3c6c1). Then, add a 10 x 6 px rounded rectangle with a 1 px Corner Radius just above it, coloring it using the same color.

Now, with both shapes selected, give them an Offset of 4 px making sure to group them together (Control-G) and then position them towards the lower left corner of the stone, so that the jaw’s outline touches the outline of the grave.

graphic 47

Step 18
Add a pair of eyes to our little skull, by creating two 4 x 4 px circles (#392a16) which we will distance at 2 px from one another, and then position towards the middle lower section of the skull.

Then add a little nose and two teeth insertions to make the object look like an actual skull.

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Step 19
Finish off the skull by adding a nice all-around highlight, and two overlapping elliptical ones towards the top section of the skull.

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Step 20
Lastly, let’s add the little blood drips from underneath the skull.

First, select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 2 x 9 px shape, which we will color using a dark red (#c95b55), and then adjust by removing its top center anchor points in order to give it a flat edge. Then create a copy and adjust it by shortening its height to just 4 px, and position it on the original’s right side leaving a gap of 2 px between the two.

With both shapes selected, give them a 2 px outline using the Offset Path, and then position them towards the left side, underneath the skull, so that the red fills touch the top side of the grave’s grey fill.

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Step 21
Since we want the two drip lines to be connected, we will add a 2 x 2 px square in between them, which we will adjust by cutting out a 2 x 2 px circle from its lower half.

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Step 22
Finish off the gravestone icon by adding a couple of highlights to the blood drips, using the same Overlay Blending Mode but a slightly higher 50% Opacity level.

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7. Creating the Eyeball Icon

We are now down to our final icon, the eyeball one. As usual this means we will be locking the “gravestone” layer and move on up to the next and final one.

Step 1
Using the Ellipse Tool (L) let’s create the base fill for our eye, by drawing a 64 x 64 px circle, which we will color using a dirty grey (#d3c6c1), and then position it towards the bottom side of the third grid set leaving a gap of 7 px between it and the smaller inner grid.

As always, don’t forget to give it that 4 px outline.

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Step 2
Give the inner fill a ring highlight with the Blending Mode set to Overlay and the Opacity to 50%.

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Step 3
Since the eyeball itself is slightly rotated so that its iris will be looking up, we will have to add a second circle over the inner fill that we already have, and position that towards the top, so that the current fill will act as a bottom shadow section.

First, select the fill, and create a copy after it (Control-C > Control-F), which we will position towards the top at a distance of 6 px from the original. Then change the shape’s color to something brighter (#e5ddda), making sure to mask it so that it will remain confined to the boundaries of the underlying circle.

Also, since the ring highlight needs to sit on top, we will have to select it and bring it to the front by right clicking > Arrange > Bring to Front.

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Step 4
Now, let’s add that texture that we’ve used for all the previous icons, only this times mix it up a little by drawing both 2 x 2 px squares and a couple of 1 x 1 px ones, which we will color using a darker shade of grey (#bdb1ac).

Leave the center of the eye free of any details since they won’t be visible once we add the inner iris section.

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Step 5
Start working on the iris, by drawing a 30 x 30 px circle, which we will color using a swamp green (#6a6e48), and then position towards the top section of the main eye fill, at about 13 px from its top side.

Give it a 4 px outline, and then add a smaller 14 x 14 px circle to its center which will represent the pupil.

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Step 6
Give the iris a ring like highlight, making sure to set the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 20%.

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Step 7
Start adding a bunch of scattered 1 x 1 px squares (#392a16) which will give it a nice looking texture.

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Step 8
Next, start adding a bunch of circle like reflections to the top right and bottom left corners of the iris, using the same Blending Mode and Opacity level as before.

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Step 9
Give the eye a visual pop by adding a overlaying highlight over the top half of the iris, making sure to mask it using the green shape from underneath.

Use Overlay as the Blending Mode and crank up the Opacity to 30%.

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Step 10
Add a subtle shadow underneath the iris’s outline, by creating a copy of the later, and moving it towards the bottom by 2 px.

Change its color to #d3c6c1, and make sure to position it underneath the outline and not the other way around.

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Step 11
Grab a copy of the diamond shaped highlights from one of the previous icons, and position it towards the right side, and then add two more circular reflections to its left to really make it shine.

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Step 12
As with the pumpkin icon, I’m going to give you the ability to get creative and draw your own version of this cute little eye stabbed icon.

As always, keep it consistent, use as much details as you can, and don’t forget to keep those outlines at 4 px.

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Huurraay we’re finally done guys!

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I really hope you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and most importantly learned something new during the process. That being said, I’m looking forwards to seeing your final designs, and if you have any questions just leave them in the comments section and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy.

And for more resources like these, join our Arsenal Mailing List!

The Wait is over! This is Dirty: From Sketch to Vector Illustration Video Tutorial is Here!

From Sketch to Vector Illustration Video Tutorial

The wait is finally over.

The long awaited, highly anticipated video tutorial by Cleveland brand design services guru & Go Media President William Beachy, is finally here. Based on his wildly popular blog post, From Sketch to Vector Illustration, “This is Dirty: From Sketch to Vector Illustration Video Tutorial,” is an intimate look into Bill’s design process.

{Whoops! Somehow missed the popular “From Sketch to Vector Illustration post? Check it out here.}

“This is Dirty,” is a compilation of all Bill has learned over twenty years as an illustrator, designer and entrepreneur.

I want it now.

You’ll spend an intimate 1 hour, 11 minutes with Bill, pouring over an illustration he has created specifically for this tutorial. Bill gives you a raw, rare look into his process from start to finish. Giving away all of his secrets, tips, tricks and talents, Bill shares the resources you’ll need to follow along and includes the following recommendations/information:

The Staedler Mars mechanical pencil and sharpener
Eraser of choice
The pros and cons of hard vs. soft lead
Preferred paper type

Drawing (Pencil Sketch)
Getting into the right head-space
Getting your arm loose
Why starting with rough sketches is so important
Getting started
Having proper expectations of yourself
Being flexible while drawing
Drawing using basic geometrical shapes
Drawing the human face
Developing a series of cheats to draw
Shading – how much black vs. white
Using reference materials

Equipment specifications
Scanning specifications

(Vector) Inking
Equipment and software specifications
Dell(PC) vs. Apple
Mouse vs. Wacom
Nodes and bezier lines
Setting up your layers
Setting up gradients and picking colors
Inking options
Creating shapes in Illustrator
Cross hatching

Photoshop vs. Illustrator
Setting up your layers
Process strategy
Highlights and secondary light source
Adding Shadows
Adding a texture

What you receive with the download:

  • Extended Tutorial (MP4 Video)
  • Blue Concrete Square texture (jpeg)
  • This is Dirty Illustration (pencil art)
  • This is Dirty Illustration Version 1 (jpeg)
  • This is Dirty Illustration Version 2 (jpeg)
  • This is Dirty Illustration – Final (AI File)

Yes. Let’s do this!

We can’t wait to see what you create! Share your work with us over at our Flickr Pool Showcase.

From Sketch to Vector Illustration Video Tutorial

The Tutorial you’ve been waiting for is finally upon us.



Long awaited, highly anticipated.

Our newest tutorial on the Go Media Arsenal release is based on Go Media President William Beachy’s wildly popular blog post on our ‘Zine, From Sketch to Vector Illustration.

This is Dirty: From Sketch to Vector Illustration Video Tutorial is an intimate look into Bill’s design process.

Included in this 1 hour, 11 minute intimate instructional tutorial:

* All the resources you’ll need to follow along including: the extended tutorial (mp4 video), textures, pencil art, jpeg illustrations and AI illustration file

* Bill’s tips and tricks on >

– Supplies (the Staedler Mars mechanical pencil and sharpener, eraser of choice, the pros and cons of hard vs. soft lead, preferred paper type)

– Drawing (Pencil Sketch) (Getting into the right head-space, getting your arm loose, why starting with rough sketches is so important, getting started, having proper expectations of yourself, being flexible while drawing, drawing using basic geometrical shapes, drawing the human face, developing a series of cheats to draw, shading – how much black vs. white, using reference materials)

– Scanning (equipment specifications, scanning specifications)

– (Vector) Inking (Equipment and software specifications, Dell(PC) vs. Apple, Mouse vs. Wacom, nodes and bezier lines, setting up your layers, setting up gradients and picking colors, inking options, creating shapes in Illustrator, cross hatching)

– Coloring (Photoshop vs. Illustrator, setting up your layers, process strategy, highlights and secondary light source, adding shadows, adding a texture)

Stay tuned to this spot, as well as to our Arsenal to find out when and how you can buy this product.

Graphic Design Video Inspiration: Leaving a Mark by Eric Natzke

A Weapons of Mass Creation Fest Video and Podcast

Eric Natzke, Principal Designer for Adobe Experience Design group, joined Cleveland Web design company, Go Media this past summer at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. As he took the stage, we were moved by his talk, Leaving a Mark, as he shared the obstacles he’s faced, risks he’s taken and joys he’s found and is finding in his career as an artist, designer and programmer.

Please watch and listen as Eric shares his adventures and lessons with us all.

Watch the Video

Listen to the Podcast

More about Eric:

Erik Natzke, artist, designer, and programmer, creates and gives material substance to his ideas through immaterial computer code.

His sensibility, combined with his stubborn resolve, has enabled him to push back the limits of his digital medium, beyond known methods and approaches. Erik Natzke loves to take risks, in the awareness that the value of failure lies in discovering new, never-before conceived solutions. The successes that have emerged from these risks have garnered numerous awards and speaking engagements around the world. All of which pale by comparison to the honor he gets when someone has chosen to put his artwork in their home.

As a Principal Designer for Adobe’s Experience Design group, Erik (as he proudly exclaims), has the good fortune of working with a variety of groups throughout the organization. Collaborating on ways to promote innovation within the tools we create at Adobe while searching for ways to reduce the friction within the process of creativity for our customers. Targeting both the existing spectrum of working professionals as well as those who don’t quite consider themselves ‘creative’ (yet). In the cult of creativity, ideas only gain value when they’ve been realized. Tools are the bridge between thought and reality. Not all bridges are built for all people, so our job (as tool builders) is to explore which infrastructures are best suited for the community were are desiring to serve.

Stay tuned to news about next year’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest!
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Illustrator Tutorial: Using Plant Textures to Create a Gritty Text Tee

Illustrator Tutorial: Using Plant Textures to Create a Gritty Text Tee

Hey Friends,

I’m going to show you a simple way to use my Plant textures for a text tee design. The purpose is to show you how I use addition and subtraction methods to make text a little gritty in Illustrator.

Want to Follow Along? First:

Buy Plant Textures Pack

Ok, Let’s Go!

To start I’m going to use my hashtag #CROMfitness. This is my personal fitness plan I came up with and have fun with. And if you have to ask “Who is CROM?” I’m gonna hang my head in shame, just google it.

I’ll open Illustrator and type out the text in Impact. I know, real creative, but we’re going for simplicity. Open the Plants pack. I’m choosing a texture that has a lot of breaks or speckles in the texture.

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The texture I’m using is obviously rectangle so I’m going to cut out certain areas with the LASSO TOOL.

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You will want to select the image you cut out, pull up the PATHFINDER box and UNITE the cut out area. I’ll do this for 5 more cutouts and there we have 6 new textures.

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Next, I’m going to take one of the newly made textures and make another one with even smaller specs.

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Next step is to EXPAND your text and place the texture over the certain letter.

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This part has been my own formula, the best way I’ve found to extract the texture from the expanded text.

-Grab a letter with the WHITE ARROW tool.

-Hold Shift +grab the texture with the BLACK ARROW tool.

-Select the MINUS FRONT tab from the PATHFINDER box with the WHITE ARROW tool and there you have the beginning of the grungy look. This is the SUBTRACTION technique.

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Repeat these steps with the rest of your letters.

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Next, I’m going to add a stroke to the hashtag by using the Offset Path.

Select the hashtag then choose OBJECT – PATH- OFFSET PATH. This will provide essentially a black stroke around the outside of the object/hashtag.

With your WHITE ARROW tool grab the outer edge of the black stroke and make the fill white and create a black stroke.

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Here is the additional part that I have used for many of my drawings. This is just a simple splatter effect. I’m going to grab a different Plant texture and cut out different areas with LASSO tool like I did with the texture before.

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From here, I’ll start building the various spots where I want this splatter look. I’ll experiment with the look and feel of the different areas until I get the solution I want.

Just a tip, this is not mandatory but you can take your WHITE ARROW tool, select the letter and splatter, select the UNITE tab in the PATHFINDER box. This will keep everything together. So there you have my super simple ADDITION technique. With the subtractions and additions you get a roughed up text that doesn’t look so boring.

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Ok let’s mock up our tee using the World’s Best Mockup tees from Go Media, which you can buy in packs on the Arsenal, or individually on

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Make an EPS file of the image and bring it into Photoshop. Drop it onto the file and adjust the size and color. We now have a great visual for the CROMfitness.

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Thanks for reading through this short tutorial. I find that the most simple effects/techniques provide the coolest results that make people say “How did he do that?”

Make sure you pick up these textures and make something nobody has ever seen before so they are asking you “How did you do that?”

Buy Plant Textures Pack

Thick Line Art: Creating Iconic Vector Art

I recently posted a new illustration on Dribbble called “Revivalist” and it got quite a lot of likes. I thought I’d write a tutorial about how I created it. So let’s do this!


One of our clients Disciple Clothing needed a “logo” and business card designed for a ministry they are a part of. The Ashish Mubarak Ministries to be exact. They sent me their current business card along with the illustration they are using as their “logo.”



Wow! That’s technically an illustration and not a logo. As an illustration, it’s gnarly 90s gold and obviously in need of an update. Lauren Kusant from Disciple recognized this and asked me to simplify this into a logo, modernize it and add the word “Revivalist” to it. But in my professional opinion, if I reduced this entire scene into a a logo (what is and what isn’t a logo), it would ultimately lose all the different messages its trying to communicate. There’s a lot going on here!

Sidenote: If you’re interested, I suggest reading the article A Logo is Not a Brand.

You can’t fit a flaming sword, a bible, mother Earth, a dove, a scroll, and some stalks of wheat in what is traditionally called a logo. Sure you could take ALL of those elements and identify its core message and communicate that single message with a single mark. Sometimes when I do this, the client often feels that it’s too simple and too far removed from their vision. It loses some sort of wow factor. Now, a logo is meant to be a placeholder for a brand. A simple icon or wordmark that represents the brand that can be resized and repurposed for any application you can think of. It should be easy to spot, easy to recognize and easy to reproduce. Sometimes, clients will incorrectly ask for a logo, when what they really mean is “a cool looking graphic design that represents them.”

I once had a client ask for five different “logos” for their apparel line. What!? After talking more with them, they really wanted five different t-shirt designs. Specifically, five different typographic t-shirt designs. In other words, cool ways of writing their name mixed with other graphics.

So how was I going to tackle this project?  I felt the best solution would be to maintain the integrity of the elements but simplify the illustration entirely into more basic shapes and iconic forms. I decided to go with a thick line art style. It won’t be a “logo” per-say, but it will still be a simple and iconic design that can be used on a variety of applications to represent the ministry. So without further ado, let’s get into the design process!

TIP: For this style, stick with ONE line weight for a uniform look. We aren’t going for “realistic” here. Don’t over-illustrate. Simplify and keep things spaced evenly.

Step One: The Sword

Since we’re aiming for iconic and simple, always start with basic shapes and add detail from there. If you start going crazy with the pen tool, you’ll have a harder time making things “perfect”. You’ll see what I mean later. For the sword, I started with a box and used my pen tool to add a point. Then I used my Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) to select the three points at the tip of the sword. To make sure they are evenly spaced and my midpoint is exactly in the middle, I used the align tool “Horizontal Distribute Left.” Make sure “align to selection” is checked and not “align to artboard.” Otherwise you’ll spread out your points all across your artboard and you don’t want that.


To make the tip, I wanted a perfect 45 degree angle. Why? Because I feel it’s more iconic when angles are in good harmony with each other. Angles like 45, 90, 60, 30 are all good angles to use. To get the 45 degree angle, I held shift when creating my line. I lined it up with the left point and then selected and repositioned the “tip” to match. There might be a more exact way of doing this, but this way gets me close. I also drew another vertical line down the center of the sword and aligned it with the rest.


To create the handle, I did a lot of the same techniques as above. I started with a basic rectangle, created a midpoint, and moved it upwards slightly. I used a 15 degree reference line instead this time. How did I get it exactly 15 degrees? I started with a horizontal line, then used the Transform palette to rotate it exactly 15 degrees. Get used to this tool because it comes in handy!


I gave the handle guard a white fill in addition to the black stroke so I could position it on top of the blade and cover up parts I don’t want people to see. To create the rest of the handle I did more of the same. For the pommel (bottom tip of the handle) I made a rectangle and used Warp > Bulge to get it a slightly bulbous shape.


Step Two: The Book

For the book, in this case The Bible, I kept things simple by illustrating only the essential elements. The page, stuff on the page, and the dimension or thickness of the book. I started with one half first and then mirrored it.


I’ll create temporary vanishing point guidelines to make sure I get my perspective angles correct. You can fake this of course but I wanted to make sure. And one technique that’s very common is designing one half first and then mirroring it so each side is symmetrical. Then center it up perfectly with the sword using the align tool.



Step Three: The Fire

Truth be told, this took me many attempts to get right. I had to imply the sword was on fire without over illustrating it. The fire had to look like fire and not a leaf or some other decorative doodad. And it had to be symmetrical, but I didn’t want to have the same flame on both left and right sides. The challenge was to make it FEEL symmetrical without actually being exactly the same on both sides.


I started with a flame on the left side. I made sure the bottom part of the flame followed the contour of the book below it. To communicate a flame instead of a leaf, you need to have a few tendrils. You don’t need a lot, but if you have just one (like a candle flame) it doesn’t look like a flame. Unless of course a candle is underneath it. But I didn’t want any more than three tendrils or points to keep it simple.

Once I got one I liked, I mirrored it for the right side. I used my pen tool and adjusted points around until I had something different but still similar. I kept the bottom part the same which helps create the illusion of symmetry. I only adjusted the top two points. Once I was satisfied with my flanking flames, I put in the smaller whisps on top of the sword and behind. These don’t need a lot of tendrils because there are other flames around it that communicate “this is fire”. Without the more complex flames to the left and right, you can’t be sure whether it’s fire, wind, or some other decorative swoosh.


Step Four: The Banner

I purposely left room at the top for the banner. This is where the text “revivalist” is going to go. I started by using the font Modula Sans as a base. Since I want everything to have a consistent line weight I’ll need to create new lines from scratch. Before I did that, I roughly set things up how I wanted it using the Warp > Arc Lower tool and distorting the text into position. Once it’s close, I lower the opacity of my reference and start drawing lines as simply as possible. It doesn’t have to match up exactly with my reference and it’s ok to adjust later. For the A, I actually used an upside-down V.


I positioned the banner on top of the sword and made sure it was perfectly centered. I also added the back “flaps”.


Step Five: The Wheat Stalks

I knew I wanted the wheat stalks to circle the design in some way. Instead of trying to draw a curve by hand, I started with a circle as reference and added a single point at the top of my stalk and then deleted other parts of the circle until I was left with the part I needed. To create the head of the wheat stalk, I took two overlapping circles and used the Intersect tool in my pathfinder palette. That gave me a perfect shape. I rotated it 30 degrees and mirrored it so I would have a symmetrical shape to work with. I then duplicated this shape vertically by holding Alt+Shift while I dragged it down some. After that I pressed Ctrl+D five times to repeat the last action and duplicate the shape. I added one more of those shapes on top. For the sprout-like things coming out the sides, it’s just a simple path that was duplicated and mirrored on both sides. Easy.


I moved the head into position on the stem and then individually rotated the shapes along the curve slightly. Just to make it look like it was bending along with the stem. When I was satisfied with the position, I copied it, rotated it, and positioned a second wheat stalk to the left of it. And finally I grouped the two of those together and mirrored it on the other side while making sure my wheat stalks were perfectly aligned to the center of the design.


Step Six: The Dove

Since I am not a pro at drawing a dove, I wanted to make sure I was close! So I grabbed a reference image from iStockphoto. It’s more of an illustration, but I liked the position and symmetry. I thought it would be an excellent starting point for my design.

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I started out with extreme basic shapes. Circles, ovals, ellipsis, whatever you want to call them. I tried to make as few lines as possible while still capturing the essence of the bird’s body. When they are properly layered, you can create the illusion of depth very easily! Make sure the head is on top of the body, the feet on top of the wheat. The body behind the wheat, etc.

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For the wings, I made one on the left side before I mirrored it to the right. Here’s a good rule of thumb for creating vector illustrations: Use as few points as possible for the cleanest curves. It’s so much easier to manipulate that way. For my wings, I made sure they were behind the body but in front of the wheat. This gives the illusion that the bird is kind of leaning forward.

For the tail feathers, I used the same technique I did in creating the head of the wheat stalks. I used two overlapping circles to cut out a basic feather shape. I used the rotate tool and held down ALT while I clicked the bottom of point of my shape to set the new pivot point. When the rotate dialog box pops up, I used 30 degrees and checked the preview button to make sure. Instead of hitting “ok” I clicked “copy” to duplicate the shape instead. And then I pressed Ctrl+D to repeat this process a bunch more times until the shape copied itself in a full circle. Pretty cool technique!


I deleted the shapes at the top that I didn’t need and set the fill color to white just so they overlapped and didn’t look transparent. I also adjusted the layering of the feathers to keep it symmetrical on both sides. With the bottom feather being furthest behind, the next two features being second, and then the top feathers being in front or on top. Does that make sense? See the image below for a breakdown.



Step Seven: Fine Tuning

In reality, there was a lot more trial and error in the process of this illustration. There was a lot nudging lines around, moving and rotating, and asking “does this look right?” Use your eye and keep the shapes and lines in harmony. And my final design was inverted (white on black) to match the colors the ministry was using on its old business card and website.

But before I made the color change, I wanted to “naturalize” the illustration a bit. Make it slightly rougher and analog. Here is a simple technique for making your vector art look a bit more natural.

Roughen it up a bit.

I selected all my strokes and went to Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. This took some tinkering to get to look just right! I was aiming for a subtle wobble to my linework, but not too much.


Photoshop Trickery

This looks pretty good, but I want to take it a step further. I’ll copy my entire design and open Photoshop. I’ll start a new document at about 2500 x 2500 and paste my artwork as pixels. Make sure it takes up most of the document.

After you’ve got it pasted in there, merge it with the background layer. Then go to Filter > Add Noise to about 15%. Then give it a Gaussian Blur of 2%. And finally apply a Smart Sharpen to about 140% with a 34 px radius. Now adjust the levels to eliminate the grey noise in the background.

Repeat this process about 3-4 times tinkering with your settings to get the best effect.


Aside from the fact that the lines are slightly rougher than before, notice the joints between lines. The areas where lines meet up are now a bit more blended together. It doesn’t look extremely precise and perfect. More natural. Now this isn’t always appropriate for every situation. If you wanted to keep the clean look then don’t do this. But in my case I like the analog look and felt like it worked for this project.

Back to Illustrator

At this point, I will copy and paste this back into Illustrator and give it a live trace to convert it back to vector art. I’m ok with some amount of smoothing or “quality loss” here. My image is 2500×2500 so it is pretty high res. A Live Trace will work fine. But if I wanted to keep a lot of those rough details, there is the “lettering” preset under Live Trace Options which works wonders for keeping your rough details, but is terrible for CPU performance. Your resulting vector art is often loaded with thousands of points and that’s not really good here. So I just keep the default settings.


Step Eight: Finish!

That’s it. That’s all there is. I hope you learned a bit about creating iconic vector art in Illustrator. It’s really about being able to simplify the elements as much as possible, using basic shapes as starting points, and keeping things simple, balanced, and consistent. Everything in this design has one stroke weight. Even my text. That’s the beauty of this style. This won’t work for a logo, but this illustration can be just as versatile in many situations.

Here’s my final design on black and then the finished business cards.



Mock it up!

Here are the designs mocked up on some of our templates. You can buy this tri-blend template pack from Go Media’s Arsenal. These other mockups are from our site Mockup Everything.



6 Essentials to Setting Up Your Illustrator Documents

A quick thanks to Josh Bunts who suggested this post on Go Media’s Facebook page. Technically, he asked for advice on “…document set up and color pallets.” I thought I should expand the post to speak generally about all things Illustrator pre-work.

1. When setting up your document specs, keep the end in mind

When creating a new Illustrator document, the very first thing you’ll be confronted by is the New Document (profile) window that asks you a bunch of questions. The important thing here is that you know what you’re designing for. Are you designing a web page or a poster? Is your design going to be viewed mostly online or in printed form? Once you know the primary way that your design will be used, here are my recommendations:



New Document Profile

Adobe has been kind enough to create document spec cheat sheets. Instead of making all the following decisions on your own, you can simply select a common-use profile. But none of these seem ideal to me, so I suggest you set this to “custom.”

Number of Art Boards

If you will need multiple art boards of the same size, go ahead and select how many you’ll need. A common example of this would be a multi-page brochure, or multi-page website design. If you’re planning on laying out anything over 12 pages you might seriously consider switching over to InDesign which is better suited for large documents. If you are setting up a document that will require multiple art boards of different sizes, I wouldn’t worry too much about this here either. You’ll need to set up those art boards once you’re in the document.


If you have multiple art boards Adobe wants to know how much space to put between them. Personally, I use lots of space around my art boards to put design elements I’m working with. So, I like at least 300pts (if not more.)


This is NOT column guides on your art boards, this is simply how Adobe arranges the art boards on your work area. This adjusts automatically based on the number of art boards. I typically leave this alone.


Obviously, this is the size of the art board. Here’s what you need to know. If you’re designing for print and require a bleed, you can either add the bleed dimensions directly to the art board or you can add a bleed dimension, and Illustrator will include the art in the bleed area when it exports. However, if you “Save For Web,” then it will not include that bleed artwork. As with the New Document Profile, Adobe has kindly provided you with a list of common art board sizes.

Width and Height

Obviously, if you’re creating a custom art board size, this is where you put it in.


Before I type in my custom art board size, I like to establish what units I’ll be working in. It’s just much easier for me to think of print dimensions in terms of inches and web dimensions in terms of pixels.


The orientation is established by the width and height you enter in. But if you decide to flip it, this is an easy way to swap those dimensions.


This is where you’ll enter in how much bleed you’ll need. For most printers this will be .125” (inches) on all four sides. Obviously, if you’re designing for the web you won’t need a bleed.

There is a little double-arrow to open the “Advanced” area, which I recommend.

Color Mode

This is probably one of the most important settings you’ll need to establish for your document. For print you’ll want CMYK. For web you’ll want RGB. If you’re doing something like branding where the design (a logo) will be used on both print and web, I would start with RGB. Of course, if you’re building someone a brand you’re going to need to establish RGB, CMYK and Pantone spot-colors for their company, but that’s another lesson.

Raster Effects

This is the resolution at which Illustrator will render its effects – things like drop shadows. Although technically you shouldn’t really need anything over 72dpi for the web, I always set this to 300dpi. I am just never sure when I might want to use part of a design for print or decide to blow-up a part of the design.

Preview Mode

Most of the time you’ll want to be in the default Illustrator view, but if you’re designing for the web and want to have a more realistic view of how your design will look once rasterized, the Pixel Preview Mode can be useful. There is also an overprint preview mode which, quite frankly, I never use and have a very difficult time imagining a scenario where you might need it, so I’ll skip trying to explain that in this article.

Align New Objects to Pixel Grid

If you’re designing for the web checking this off will force your vectors to align to the pixel grid. This helps keep your vectors pixel-perfect when they rasterize. Though you’ll also notice your objects snapping into locations that are not necessarily where you’re putting them.

2. Set up and save your preferred Workspace

When you’re working in Illustrator there are tons of tool panels (known as Windows) all over your screen. You probably know that you can open, close and move your tool Windows around, but did you know you can also save the way you arrange them? This is critical to my work flow. I know which windows I use most frequently, so I’ve systematically arranged them in just the right order. When you have your work space set up just how you like it click Window/Workspace/Save Workspace.

Then name it something like “Beachy_Print_Workspace.” You may find, as I did, that you’ll want to set up slightly different workspaces depending on the type of project you’re working on. Here is my default workspace set-up.

One item to take note of in my set-up here is that I’ve set up my own color swatch palette and called it Beachy. This is very easy to do. To set up your own custom color swatch palette just edit the normal swatches window until you have all the colors you like then open the drop-down menu and click Save Swatch Library as ASE…

The next time you create a new Illustrator document you will need to open your custom swatch palette by clicking Window/Swatch Libraries/User Defined.

You may also notice my Layers Window, which brings me to my next essential point:

3. Set up and use Layers!

Layers are one of the most important tools for managing your illustrator documents. It took me many years to grow an appreciation for Layers. But just like a computer, the wheel and fire – once you learn how to use them, you won’t imagine living without them. Here is a typical layer stack that I will create while working on a project. Sometimes I’ll get even more specific by setting up layers with names like “Header Art,” “Navigation” or “Footer.” Basically, any design element that I might want to design as a distinct unit can be put on its own layer. Then, as I work, I’m constantly locking and unlocking the layers. This allows me to easily manipulate the elements on the layer I’m working on without disturbing the elements on the other layers. You should really get into the habit of building well organized layers that have clear titles. I promise over your lifetime you will save yourself a lot of aggravation by making this a habit now.

4. Create a template.

You’ll notice that the top layer of my document is labeled “Template.” I always start by designing a template and locking the layer. I actually created tons of templates in advance and now I just open the appropriate template before I start each project. My templates for print projects look something like this: Solid black line for the exterior full-bleed area, then .125” inside of that I make a solid red line for the trimmed art area and finally, .25” inside of that I make a dashed black line for the “live area.”

When I’m working on web designs I typically start with a 960 grid template. You can download one here: I normally expand the art board from 1020px wide to 1920px. I do this because I design all my web pages for a monitor that supports 1920px width. Sure, most people will never see the entire width of my designs. But if someone happens to have a monster monitor, I want their viewing experience to be as beautiful as possible. Of course, I keep all the live content within the 960 grid.

5. Link your photos

This little piece of advice doesn’t take place during the set-up, but will occur each time you place an image into your Illustrator file. Any time you place an image into Illustrator, you have two options. You can either embed the image or you can link it. Here is the Place window that will pop up when you go to add an image:

If you don’t check off this “Link” box, then Illustrator assumes you want to embed your image. When you embed an image it means that the photo’s data becomes part of the Illustrator file. When you link your images Illustrator does not embed the photo data. Instead, it just refers back to the photo file that is saved on your hard drive. Here are the reasons I believe linking is the right way to go versus embedding. First, it will keep your illustrator file sizes down. Second, when a photo is linked you can edit the photo outside of Illustrator and it will automatically update the image in Illustrator. Lastly, but most importantly, embedded images are known to corrupt Illustrator files. I’ve lost many Illustrator files because it had difficulty managing my embedded images. The only down side to linked images is that if you move your images on your hard drive, you’ll need to re-link them when you open your Illustrator file. But re-linking files, in my opinion, is a small burden when you consider the advantages.

6. When saving, uncheck “Create PDF Compatible File”

One of the great advantages of Illustrator over raster based software like Photoshop is the ability to keep your file sizes very small.  But for some reason Illustrator, by default, creates a PDF compatible file when you save it. This essentially bloats your file size to something similar to a raster file. While you may want to use this option when saving the final file that you give your client or send to a printer, you don’t need it for day-to-day saving. So long as you’re not done and don’t plan on trying to open the file in some alternative software, uncheck the Create PDF Compatible File option when saving.

So, that’s it – short and sweet. I hope these tips will help you when working in Adobe Illustrator. It’s certainly my favorite program and the more you use it, the more you’ll love it. I promise!

Learn to Create Collage Typography

Ever been asked to come up with a type driven design but still wanted to use imagery? Creating text through collage can be an awesome solution. Here’s what you’re going to need to create a successful piece:

1. An open mind. I always find that being noncommittal toward the placement of objects allows you to easily rearrange the elements into a better composition.

2. A solid sense of composition. When you’re looking at the elements you’re going to use, it helps to have a rough idea of where that element will go and how it relates to the elements around it.

3. Lots and lots of royalty free stock photos. You don’t want to just pull images off of Google. That’s always a bad idea. The original photographer may somehow see that you’re using his/her work without permission and seek legal action against you. I find that using sites like istockphoto or are good places to start. Also, flickr can be a great resource if you ask the photographer’s permission.

4. Patience. It can take a long time for the forms to take shape in the way that you want them to. The important thing is to not get frustrated and to keep working until something strikes you.

5. Basic understanding of Photoshop. This tutorial uses the pen tool, blending modes, transformation tools, and other filters and effects.

Before we get started, you need to think through the project and determine whether or not that collage typography is appropriate for your project. It should only be used in a situation where you can use full color or four color process printing. There may be situations where a good color separator can get it down to 10 colors or so if you’re printing silkscreen, but that could be quite expensive.

Preproduction: Type Layout & Editing photos

Okay, let’s get started. First thing we’re going to do is rough out the composition, which basically is just laying out the type that the image is going to be based on. In this case, I’m going to be using Sign Painter, a typeface by House Industries. Let’s go with something short. Fly is an easy three letters. Bird imagery makes sense here, so let’s stick with that.

The next thing you’re going to do is find imagery and remove the background. I’m only going to show one here, but I’m probably using around 30-40 images total for the whole collage. For this pelican image, I’m going to use the pen tool to outline the shape of the bird.

Now I’ve got the outline finished, and I’ve used the right click (ctrl click on mac) -> Make selection to get our pelican selected.

Next, I’m going to go up to the top menu and go Select -> Refine Edge. I want to make sure that the edges of the bird are clean and crisp and don’t get weird edges.

These are the settings that I used for this photo, but it’s going to be different for each photo, so you’ll have to try out each setting on your own to see what photo will work for you.

So now that I’ve refined the selection, I want to make the pelican its own layer, separated from the background. Ctrl/cmd+J will create a new layer for your selection. Now, we’ve got the pelican on it’s own layer, lets see how clean the edges are. Make a layer under the pelican and fill it with a bright color. This helps to see how your edges turned out. I’m not looking for them to be absolutely perfect here because the layering of images will help hide any imperfections in the edges, however you don’t want them to look too weird.

Building the letterforms

I’ve gone ahead and cut out a bunch of bird shapes from various images and dragged them onto the collage canvas. I like to have them all visible, away from the text so that I can see what I have to work with. It’s similar to having a palette of paint. Also, I prefer to make all of my images smart objects so that I can scale them as I please. It increases file size, but keeps your options open in terms of composing the images.

Now I can start to create the letterforms using the images. Analyze your photos, see if there’s a shape that will fit perfectly as part of a letter. For example, using a wing as an arm on the F. Again, don’t marry yourself to a particular image in a particular spot. You may end up finding a better image to use down the line. Also, don’t be afraid to edit the images. You can use just a part of a bird if it fits better. Also, for this image, I’m not worrying about color. I think the random splashes of color from the various birds will result in a colorful image. We’ll talk more about that later in the tutorial.

As I said in the previous step, don’t be afraid to edit the images. The warp tool is a great way to manipulate an image into fitting into part of a letter. Here, I’m using the warp tool (Edit -> Transform -> Warp) to bend a feather into the L shape.

Keep forming the letters using the images, paying attention to how the images are layered on top of each other. You don’t want too many images just floating without something on top of them. Also, I prefer to use larger images to create the letters, but there are always going to be gaps. I like to feel those gaps with colorful pieces layered behind the larger shapes.

You should always be looking for images that will fit a specific space in the letter. For example, the head and beak of this toucan forms the counter of the lowercase Y.

From here, I’m filling in the spaces with images. I’m paying attention to the layering of images, the shapes of the images, and the relation of images to each other.

I’m also keeping an open mind the entire time and thinking if each element is in the best place. I’ve moved a few of them into new places, deleted a few, made a few bigger, etc.

Post Production: Additional Elements & Vintage Effects

So I’ve finished the collage. At this point, I want to clean up and organize the file. I’ll delete layers I’m not using and put the layers of each letter into a group so that I can adjust the placement of each. So now that I’ve got my file cleaned up and saved, it’s time to move onto some post production. I’m going to put some clouds in the background of the image. First, make a layer behind the word and fill it with a light blue. Next, find an image of clouds.

Now we’re going to separate the clouds from the background. It would be insane to try to do this with the pen tool, so we’re going to use the channels instead. First, desaturate the image – ctrl/cmd+shirt+U. Then bring up the levels – Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, or ctrl/cmd+L and make sure that there is very high contrast between the clouds and the sky. It should look like this:

Next, go to the channels palette, it’s next to the layers palette. Ctrl/Cmd click on the thumbnail to the left of the RGB/CMYK channel. This will select the lighter parts of the image, so in this case it will select the clouds.

Next, we need to see how the selection worked. Make a new layer and fill it with a lighter color. Then make another layer, fill that with black and put it behind your new cloud layer.

Now we can drag the clouds over to the collage and color them white. Mess around with the placement, find something that works for you.

To help unify the colors, we’re going to use a color balance adjustment layer. You can access this at the bottom of the layers palette. Because the background is blue, I’m going to slightly shift the colors of the collage towards blue. I’m not saying to make the whole collage blue, just to give it a hint of blue to help bring those colors closer together.

Let’s add in some noise and stuff to give it a slight vintage/aged feel. Yes, it’s super trendy at the moment, but we’re not gonna go crazy with it. It’s just an added flavor. First, you’re going to need to copy all of the layers and merge them together. This is going to be your filter layer. Next, lets add noise. Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. These are the numbers I used, feel free to mess around with it.

Next, use gaussian Blur. Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur.

Onto smart sharpen. Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen. Again, these are the numbers I used. Feel free to experiment. Make sure the Remove: is on Gaussian Blur.

This is the result.

It’s a bit too much for what I’m looking for, so I’m going to knock down the opacity to around 40 or so.

I’m going to make another layer, fill it with a pale yellow, set the blending mode to multiply, and move the opacity down to 60 or so:

And that should do it. Here’s some other examples of collage type:

View the full size image.

Adobe Illustrator CS5 HTML5 Pack

Adobe recently announced the release of their HTML5 Pack for Adobe Illustrator CS5. It’s totally free for Illustrator CS5 users. Here’s a quick rundown from their site:

  • Efficiently design for web and devices by exporting Illustrator Artboards for unique screen sizes using SVG and CSS3 media queries.
  • Create web widgets with Illustrator by generating dynamic vector art for data driven web work-flows.
  • Take advantage of the latest enhancements to SVG and Canvas to generate interactive web content.
  • Map artwork appearance attributes from designer to developer tools—export from the Illustrator Appearance Panel to CSS3 for streamlined styling of web pages.

It’s interesting that this was released around the same time that Apple relaxed their rules about how iPhone and iPad apps can be developed, specifically in allowing tools like Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler found in Flash CS5.

In effect, Apple now allows Adobe use their Flash-based tools to develop apps, and Adobe releases tools to allow Illustrator CS5 users to develop non-Flash interactive content for the web — which in particular means developing interactive content for the iPhone and iPad. And of course for Android, since most Android phones still do not have the capability to run Flash content.

Note that this has nothing to do with Flash content displaying on Apple’s iOS devices, but interestingly offers an alternative to Flash for developing interactive web content. The two are only loosely related, but I find the shift in attitude from both companies very surprising and welcome.

I’m glad to see Adobe offering these tools and stepping up to the plate. Sure, they have a lot riding on Flash and would prefer creators to use their proprietary formats. But designers need to have tools to develop in whatever environment is applicable to their project. If a client wants HTML5, Adobe needs to offer the tools to do so before someone else beats them to it.

Adobe Evangelist Greg Rewis has an extended video demonstrating the use of the HTML5 Pack for use on the web. Looks pretty slick:

Review: Phantasm CS plugin for Adobe Illustrator

Not many Adobe Illustrators are aware of the plug-in functionality of Adobe Illustrator. I don’t believe it’s promoted very well. There’s not a good one-stop shop to find plug-ins in one place, with reviews and user feedback. And it’s a shame, because there are many killer plug-ins out there for Illustrator.

Today I want to introduce you to a plugin that in some ways goes beyond my notion of a plug-in, since it adds so many features that you wouldn’t ever expect to be able to do within Adobe Illustrator: Phantasm CS.

Developed by Astute Graphics, Phantasm CS can best be summed up by saying it offers Photoshop-esque functionality to Illustrator. Want to apply Levels? Check. Need to access the Curves? Got it. Need to adjust Hue/Saturation? Bingo.

Phantasm CS is available for both Mac and Windows running Adobe Illustrator CS2, CS3, CS4 or CS5, and offers the user an insane array of extremely well-implemented features that you may have since long given up on having within Illustrator. To be honest, I haven’t used Phantasm CS very much because my mind says “you can’t do that in Illustrator”. With Phantasm CS, you can.

The main feature set that is available across all three versions includes the following:

  • Brightness/Contrast
  • Curves
  • Desaturate
  • Duotone (including monotone, tritone and quadtone)
  • Halftone (vector)
  • Hue/Saturation/Lightness
  • Colorize mode
  • Invert
  • Levels
  • Shift to Color
  • Swap Channels
  • Temperature/Tint

Applying any of these is easy enough: select the art you want to tweak, then head to the Effects menu and then to the Phantasm CS sub-menu. From there you select the effect and a dialog box comes up, with the option for basic or advanced settings.

Convert your art to grayscale, whip up a color vector halftone (seriously!), convert your colors to a duotone, adjust levels, curves, brightness/contrast — everything you think you need to do in Photoshop is now at your fingetips in Illustrator and remains editable vector art. It’s freaking cool.

And the effects don’t stop at vector art, you can also edit and tweak embedded images if you spring for the Studio or Publisher version upgrades.

If you are a seasoned Illustrator user, trust me you will have a tough time getting used to the fact that you can do all of this right within Illustrator. As I mentioned above, your brain will tell you “can’t do that” and you will need to re-learn that you now have the capability. That’s probably the biggest learning curve for Phantasm CS.

Phantasm CS has a trial version which gives you basic Brightness/Contrast control as either a Filter or Live Effect. This trial version does not expire and any Brightness/Contrast Live Effects saved with your file remain completely editable in both the trial and full version.

Astute Graphics has an extensive features page on their site so you can learn in-depth about everything Phantasm CS has to offer. Pricing starts at just £49.00 (approximately $75/€58) and for what you get, this seems more than reasonable.

I highly recommend you head over to the site, download the trial and give it a whirl. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Photoshop CS5: Performance Tips

So I recently jumped the gun and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 on the Mac. And I wasn’t too happy about it.

Let’s just say that the performance levels were not to my liking. In fact, Photoshop CS5 performed worse than CS4. I was even more confused because Adobe touted the 64-bit nature of Phototshop CS5, which was supposed to bring all sorts of performance gains. I saw none of these, and in fact the opposite.

The Rotate View tool was sluggish and jumpy, brush resizing via the keyboard was jerky at times, zooming in and out was full of hiccups and lag.

Lest you think I’ve been holding on to some old outdated machine, I’m running a Mac Pro dual-quad 2.8 Ghz with 14 GB of RAM. And like I said, CS4 was blazingly fast for me. I was really disappointed in the upgrade. In fact, I was reverting back to using CS4 for my Photoshop needs.

Reaching the end of my rope, I finally did a Google search. Lo and behold I found the Mac Performance Guide article all about Optimizing Photoshop CS5 Performance.

The series of articles explains that most of the tips for CS4 were valid, but there were a few things specific to CS5 that could use a little work. In particular, the one tip that helped me was the Cache Tile Size tip. Seems this obscure little setting in the preferences has a huge impact on Photoshop CS5’s performance, and oddly it’s set by default to a number that kills Photoshop’s performance by up to 80% in some cases!

There’s also a Memory Allocation issue which — as the author suggests — is a bug and needs to be fixed by Adobe. The author Lloyd Chambers(@digilloyd) kindly offers some “warmup” scripts as workarounds to these issues in the meantime. The basic gist is that Photoshop CS5 doesn’t properly allocate the max RAM setting you’ve told it to until it’s opened a file of that size or larger (at least that’s the idea I gathered).

I dropped an @ reply to Photoshop product manager John Nack via Twitter, and waiting to see what his take is on the default setting for the cache tile preference and the performance hit.

If you’re a Photoshop CS5 user and have any other performance tips, please sound off in the comments below.

Header image background photo via Nathan Eal

Adobe: Create Digital Magazines for the iPad

There’s been quite a brouhaha between Adobe and Apple as far as the lack of Flash on Apple’s iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch).

I’ve mentioned on GoMediaZine in the past that I believe Adobe’s best plan of action would be to offer development tools for HTML5 and for Apple’s iOS devices instead of trying to force their hand into Flash.

It’s obvious that Apple isn’t going to relent in the near future (if at all) and that Apple’s iOS products are a big success. Like it or not, they are here to stay.

Adobe has taken what I think is a great step towards offering designers and developers a way to use Adobe products to get content on these touch devices. We mentioned the Adobe Digital Publishing platform recently, but Adobe has just released further details, including iPad-specific information.

The tools will be released as an add-on for Adobe InDesign CS5, and will be available via Adobe Labs later this summer. The tools used will be the same tools used to create the successful Wired Magazine app.

Check out the brief video below to see what Adobe has up their sleeve. It looks pretty slick and I can’t wait to get my hands on it to try it out.

Tutorial: Iconic Poster Design

Adobe Digital Publishing Platform

Today Adobe announced their Digital Publishing Platform, which in their own words is “a platform which consists of applications, technologies, and services that allow publishers to cost effectively author, produce, and distribute groundbreaking content to the broadest possible audience on a wide variety of digital devices”.

While it’s hard to tell from the web page exactly what the Digital Publishing Platform is, it’s also hard not to look at it as a response to Apple’s recent stance against Flash for their mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad.

From the FAQ Adobe states that it will use “Objective-C for the iPad and the Adobe AIR for the desktop and other mobile platforms”. The FAQ also states that at this time the iPhone is not supported, at least not for the Wired Magazine app which is the flagship example of Adobe’s new platform.

From what I can gather, the DPP will use existing Adobe software such as InDesign CS5 so designers don’t need to learn or use new tools to design and at the same time will compile the final output in a format that fits the Apple app store requirements.

Additionally, the DPP will also include support for HTML5 output, which is Apple’s suggested route for web-based rich media on their devices.

Adobe plans to make the Digital Publishing Platform available to CS5 users later this year via Adobe Labs.